WeBuyCars, majority owned by Transaction Capital, has confirmed it has purchased the Ticketpro Dome in Northgate, Johannesburg from owners the Sasol Pension Fund. In a statement it says it will create one of the biggest used-car dealerships in the world in the facility.
The structure was originally built to be a permanent car showroom, but this never materialised. It was launched as a multi-purpose entertainment and events arena in 1998 and soon after housed the temporary casino for Tsogo Sun’s third property, Montecasino. At that point, it was known as the Sundome. MTN soon joined as a naming sponsor. When the casino moved to its permanent home in Fourways, the future of the venue became uncertain. In 2004, Coca-Cola signed an initial five-year naming rights agreement. Ticketpro became naming rights partner in 2015.
CEO of WeBuyCars Faan van der Walt says the Dome will allow the business to increase its footprint in Johannesburg.
He says WeBuyCars is now able to finally realise the original vision held for the Dome and develop it into one of the biggest second-hand car dealerships in the world.
Given its size, it will be able to store approximately 1 500 vehicles. WeBuyCars said the location – it is easily accessible from the N1 – and size of the new dealership would deliver “unrivalled convenience, value and selection to customers”.
The business has eight branches across the country, of which four are in Gauteng. The largest is in Midstream, between Midrand and Centurion. Its newest branch, Germiston, launched in June 2021. Its Brackenfell, Cape Town showroom was built by Atterbury and is valued at R150 million. It has 13 500m2 of floor space and can accommodate approximately 700 cars.
Transaction Capital in May revealed that WeBuyCars was selling in excess of 8 000 vehicles per month by March of this year. It expects this number to reach 10 000 within 18 months. At that point, it owned 49.9% of the business, but has subsequently increased this to 74.9%.
It estimates roughly 1.1 million used vehicle sales per year currently, with an annual compound growth rate over the last decade of 1.8% per annum (versus 0.9% for new cars).
At the 10 000 cars per month level, WeBuyCars will have less than 11% of the market.
A blow to events industry
RX Venue Management, which has operated the facility for a number of years, says the sale is “another devastating blow for the exhibitions, events and entertainment industry due to Covid-19. The ban on public gatherings has meant that during 2020 and now 2021, the Ticketpro Dome has been unable to operate”.
Carol Weaving, MD of RX Africa, says “The selling of the Ticketpro Dome is extremely disappointing and heartbreaking for our industry. The Ticketpro Dome has been home to many international concerts and events in South Africa, and this will undoubtedly leave a huge void. Unfortunately, as we are only the managing company; we were unable to change the outcome of Sasol Pension Fund selling the venue due to force majeure”.
End of an era
The purchase price of the venue has not been disclosed.
The venue had been under pressure for a number of years prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. When the Sun Arena at Time Square in Menlyn, Pretoria opened in late 2017, this created additional pressure given the stark difference in the quality of facilities on offer.
A number of promoters started hosting events and international performers at the Sun Arena instead of the Dome, and some exhibitions also shifted to Pretoria. It is unclear whether the Sasol Pension Fund had been quietly searching for a buyer prior to the pandemic, but given these pressures, it would be surprising if this were not the case.
The sale leaves Johannesburg with no large events venue.
The Sandton Convention Centre and Gallagher Estate are the only two sizeable indoor spaces in the city, but both accommodate fewer than 10 000 people.